Is it a rivalry, or isn’t it?
Right now, it might depend on who you ask.
Greenwood Christian and Edinburgh have never faced one another on the football field; heck, the Cougars didn’t have a program until about four months ago, and they’ve only played one game against another varsity team so far. But as the only two Class A schools in Johnson County, the Cougars and Lancers have some prior athletic history, and that could lay the foundation for some fireworks when they clash on the gridiron this evening.
“Our kids have played these guys in basketball and in baseball, so they do see it as a county rivalry,” Edinburgh coach Tyler DeSpain said. “I don’t like to say it this way, but our kids don’t like Greenwood Christian, to be honest. Just the things that have happened in other sports — so it’d be great to get one up on them and be able to say that we’re 1-0 against these guys in the county.”
First-year GCA coach Andre Dobson was living in Florida the last time any of the Cougars’ multi-sport athletes went up against the Lancers, so he hasn’t yet had the opportunity to develop any feelings, negative or otherwise, toward them. He also says he hasn’t heard any talk yet from his kids this about this being a rivalry game.
He is, however, eager to see how his team responds to what should be far and away the toughest test it’s faced thus far. The Lancers are 4-1 this fall and have been receiving votes in the AP and coaches’ Class A polls.
“We’re excited about the opportunity,” Dobson said. “You need these types of games for checking to see where you are as a program. … (Edinburgh is) playing some pretty good football.”
Greenwood Christian has played surprisingly well itself for a first-year outfit. The Cougars thumped their sole varsity foe, a similarly nascent Phelan Academy squad in just its third year of existence, by a 49-13 count, and overwhelmed sub-varsity teams from Brownsburg and Covenant Christian before dropping a 48-36 shootout with the Columbus East freshman team this past week.
Such matchups make sense this year for GCA, which has a roster heavily dominated by underclassmen and players who are new to the sport. Tonight’s game against a senior-heavy Edinburgh team presents a different challenge, but Dobson likes the development he’s seen from his horses so far.
“The growth from the guys has been tremendous from the first day of practice to where we are now,” he said. “Our guys are just totally brand new to the game, so their brains are like hard drives right now, where every single experience is going down in their memory bank and learning from those experiences. When you don’t have any experience, picking up any little thing you can learn is absolutely huge to their learning process.”
Tonight will be just the third time that GCA will get to play a full four quarters, so tonight should offer plenty of opportunities to pick up both big and little things.
When asked whether he’s using Edinburgh as a measuring stick, though, Dobson noted that his eyes are pointed in the other direction toward the southside and defending Class A state champion Indianapolis Lutheran.
”I wouldn’t say we’re on that level at all,” Dobson said, “but they’re the guys that we have to measure ourselves to, really. No one else.
“We just want to do it a lot quicker than they did.”
Of course, Dobson knows that the Cougars are still a long way away from being able to contend with such teams just yet. These next three weeks — with road games against Edinburgh, Clarksville and Shortridge — will give them an idea of just how long.
“Three legit 1A varsity teams, and let’s see where we are,” Dobson said. “We definitely don’t think we’ve arrived. … These next three weeks, it’s going to be a good little grind for us.”
The Lancers, meanwhile, are trying to get back on track tonight after taking their first loss of the fall last week against North Daviess. They’re also trying to clinch what would be their first winning season since 1993 after finishing 5-5 a year ago.
To do that against another county school would make the moment that much sweeter. There’s no denying that.
But is it a rivalry, or isn’t it?
The answer should be a lot clearer by night’s end — but the hints are definitely there.
“It’s just another game,” DeSpain said, “but it would be nice to welcome them to Johnson County football, truthfully.”
Greenwood Christian at Edinburgh, 7 p.m.
Lawrence Central at Center Grove, 7 p.m.
Franklin at Mooresville, 7 p.m.
Greenwood at Perry Meridian, 7 p.m.
Whiteland at Martinsville, 7 p.m.
Indian Creek at Edgewood, 7 p.m.
Roncalli at Brebeuf Jesuit, 7 p.m.